EMPLOYER DISCRIMINATION; DEFENSES – Legitimate Business Purpose/Business Necessity

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505.11000 – Legitimate Business Purpose/Business Necessity

If a charging party establishes a prima facie case of retaliation, and the evidence also reveals a non-discriminatory reason for the employer’s decision, the respondent may prove, by a preponderance of the evidence as an affirmative defense, that it would have taken the exact same action even absent protected activity. (City and County of San Francisco (2020) PERB Decision No. 2712-M, p. 15.) In such “mixed motive” or “dual motive” cases, the question becomes whether the adverse action would not have occurred “but for” the protected activity. (Id. at p. 16.) To make this determination, we weigh the evidence supporting the employer’s justification for the adverse action against the evidence of the employer’s unlawful motive. (Los Angeles County Superior Court (2018) PERB Decision No. 2566-C, p. 19; Rocklin Unified School District (2014) PERB Decision No. 2376, p. 14; Palo Verde Unified School District (2013) PERB Decision No. 2337, p. 33.) As a result, the outcome of a discrimination or retaliation case ultimately is determined by the weight of the evidence supporting each party’s position. (See Novato Unified School District (1982) PERB Decision No. 210, p. 14.) Even direct evidence of unlawful motivation does not bar a respondent from proving that an employee’s protected activity was not the true motivation for its action. (Regents of the University of California (2012) PERB Decision No. 2302-H, p. 4.) (p. 35.)